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Couple starts family while teaching students the basics of math

Names: Nicolas and Lori Koban
Degrees: PhD in mathematics
Plans: Both accepted positions teaching mathematics at Western Carolina University.

Nicolas “Nic” Koban’s college years at Bloomsburg University didn’t come easy. In fact, it took him nearly 10 years to receive his bachelor’s degree.

“I was in and out of school as an undergrad and wasn’t sure if college was really the right thing for me,” Nic said. “My grades were not good and there were certain semesters when I would just stop going and fail all my classes.”

But nearly seven years after finally graduating, Nic is proving that college was the right choice and it’s actually where he plans to spend the remainder of his working career.

Nic, who received his master’s degree in mathematical sciences from Binghamton in 1999, has completed his PhD and accepted a position as an assistant professor of mathematics at Western Carolina University in North Carolina, where he will be joined by his wife Lori, who will defend her dissertation this summer.

At first, Nic didn’t think he would ever continue his education at Binghamton. After graduating from Bloomsburg, he applied to BU’s Graduate School but was turned down because of his low GPA. However, he didn’t give up and started speaking regularly with BU representatives about how he might eventually attend.

“I was looking for a school which would take a chance on someone,” said Nic, a recipient of the Graduate Student Excellence Award in Teaching. “The people at Binghamton were the most honest of those who dealt with me. At first it was ‘no’ … I didn’t have the grades. But BU spoke with the people who wrote my recommendations and they thought I could do it if I put my mind to it.”

After taking summer courses, Nic was accepted. “They told me to come and prove that I could do it and then we would talk about an assistantship,” said Nic, who met his wife as they both co-taught a calculus class soon after his arrival.

The couple married in 2001 and had a daughter, Shaylynn, last year.

Lori said she has never regretted her decision to attend Binghamton. “What I really enjoyed about being a graduate student in the math department is that you are able to teach a wide range of classes so you leave here with a clear feeling of whether or not you really want to teach,” said Lori, who will become a visiting professor at Western Carolina University this fall. “And I learned that I do want to teach.”

Her students have also benefited from her classes. The first member of the math department to receive both the awards for the Graduate Student Excellence in Awards in Teaching and in Research, Lori has been able to teach a variety of classes from Educational Opportunity Program lessons to challenging upper-level courses.

“Math is certainly a subject that builds upon itself,” Nic said. “I always felt that people who hate it probably had a time when they were lost … when they had a teacher who did not help or were not able to study as much. All of a sudden you think that you don’t understand mathematics. You never hear people say that math is OK, but you usually hear people say they hate it and are not good at it.”

The couple’s educators believe they will be successful. “Both Nic and Lori are excellent and very hard-working students,” said David Hanson, professor of mathematical sciences. “I’ve taught both of them. They are both good teachers. Lori’s SOOTs (Student Opinion of Teaching Survey) are the best I’ve ever seen. They will do well in academia and we will be proud that they are Binghamton University graduates.”
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Last Updated: 10/14/08